Saturday, 16 March 2013

Add your voice to the sound of the crowd

Do you have a story about how you ended up being where you are?

I don't mean a metaphorical state-of-your-psyche kind of where you are. I mean your actual physical location.

I have mentioned before on this blog that I was born and brought up in rural Buckinghamshire, but have adopted Sheffield as my home town since coming here to university in 1982.

And that decision was at least in part informed by pop music. Yeah, I was (am?) that shallow...

Sheffield was home to some of my favourite bands in the early 1980s, the Human League, ABC and Heaven 17, and I am pretty sure that this gave the city extra cachet in my eyes. I was too intimidated to try for Oxford, too scared of the sheer size of London (and it was too close to home), so Sheffield, with its reasonable distance, its reassuring lack of pretension, its university offer that seemed within my under-confident grasp, its cheap bus fares, and its promise of Phil Oakey, Martin Fry and Glenn Gregory seemed perfect.

This city may have been built on the steel industry and all its offshoots rather than rock and roll, but Sheffield does have a strong musical heritage.


Legends in Fagans, by Sheffield artist Pete McKee.

Fagans is a traditional back street boozer which hosts a Sunday lunchtime folky musical play/singalong in its back room. At least it used to, I haven't been for years to know for sure if this still happens. These days, I am embroiled in a world of kids' swimming lessons and frantically chivvying them along to do their homework and cooking Sunday dinner, and therefore sadly no longer available for a pint or several of Guinness, listening to a boozy music session, and an afternoon sleep when I get home. Those were the days.

The legends of the picture are Alex Turner, Jarvis Cocker, Tony Christie, Phil Oakey and Richard Hawley.

If you want to see the Manchester legends version, it's here.

Pete McKee is brilliant, have a look around his website. I guarantee it will make you will smile. The images are stylish and stylised, yet all too human, real and recognisable.

All the illustrations in this post are his work.

(And rather neatly, he is also a musician, he plays ukelele in a Sheffield band called The Everly Pregnant Brothers.)

A rather different Pete, Peter Stringfellow, must be credited with putting Sheffield on the musical map in the mid 1960s. His nightclubs, the Black Cat Club and the King Mojo, have legendary status here for the acts who played there. The Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, Wilson Pickett, Stevie Wonder, Ike and Tina Turner, Geno Washington, and many more - the folk who got to see all these people play live in a tiny venue were fortunate indeed.

Joe Cocker had a moment or two in the 1960s.

The 1970s Sheffield music scene covered all the bases; from Tony Christie doing what he did for Maria, and Marti Caine winning New Faces in 1975 and becoming the darling of prime time Saturday night telly, to the Comsat Angels doing their bit for post-punk, and Cabaret Voltaire being Dada-ist and experimental.

I suspect these names mean little to most of you - sorry!

But my heart belongs to the 1980s, they were My Time in Sheffield.

Didn't every teenager have a copy of Dare by the Human League? I loved that album, still do.

League at the Limit

 I like all the interconnectedness between Phil Oakey and Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, how they all started out in the band together, before falling out and going their separate ways, with the latter forming Heaven 17. I love the story of Oakey chasing Ware down the street, throwing milk bottles from people's doorsteps at him after one of their many disagreements. Artistic differences and stolen milk, there's glamorous. And I liked the illusion of being cool I gained, or so I fondly imagined, for loving (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang, banned from Radio 1's playlist by Mike Read before he got all hot under the collar about Relax, foolish man.

And ABC's Lexicon of Love is incomparable. All of my heart remains one of my favourite songs.
Martin Fry was actually from Manchester, but he came to Sheffield the same way I did, to study English Literature at university.

 I can't talk 1980s Sheffield music without mentioning the mighty poodle-haired rockers who were Def Leppard - Krista would never forgive me!

The 1990s were all about Britpop and the eventual stardom of Pulp and the fabulous Jarvis Cocker. I have always appreciated the man rather more than his music, which may be a heinous confession to many. Again - sorry.

 Queue, the Leadmill 

All Seeing I, Moloko (who were formed and based here for a while) and the Longpigs, all had short moments in the sun, and the latter were the starting point for another of Sheffield's favourite sons, Richard Hawley. And with more of that interconnectedness, Hawley played and toured with Pulp for a while.

When the Arctic Monkeys won the Mercury Prize for their debut album in 2006, Alex Turner said "Someone call 999, Richard Hawley's been robbed." 

Arctic Monkeys the towers

 Vix's faves Reverend and the Makers are continuing to do Sheffield proud.

(Bugger - just realised I have forgotton Paul Carrack...)

Sheffield Records

There are so many videos I could have added to this post.

I've gone with my first love.

It's 1981, I'm 17, I'm planning my escape from the country to the Big City, I see this on Top of the Pops, and I'm in love.

Thanks, Phil and co, you brought me to a good place.

What brought you to the place you live, and are there any musical heroes who hail from there?




Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't realise Sheffield was so cool musically.
I started off in Derbyshire and have lived in a lot of places - Oxford, London, The Hague, New Jersey, Worthing - before ending up in Horsham. I don't know if it's permanent (how could I know?) but I love it for friendliness, the pub just over the road, the fields and woods and the music pub just a short walk

Bryony said...

Tony Christie's version of Louise brings tears to my eyes and Common People is just perfect. But what do I know? I went to Swansea in 1981 and we had Bonnie Tyler and Shakin' Stevens. Gary Glitter once played a gig in the Refec...

Connie said...

What a fun trip down memory lane. I've never been to Sheffield but when I think of it I immediately think Music because I love Joe Cocker..then I think of steel. And now I will also think of Curtise!! There is also a soundtrack that runs through my life and all my many moves. Excuse me now I must go reminisce....

Emma Kate at Painted Style said...

I remember with great fondness trying to drive to the Leadmill to see my favourite band. We went round and round it a dozen times and decided the only way to get there was the wrong way down a one way street. It worked!
Our hometown was chosen for good scores in schools/houses/transport to London and oop north. Very dull and practical choices. No major celebs that I'm aware of. Well, Jonathan Ross's mum and a very nice fellow from Holby City live here. But we love it even if it's not as cool as Sheffield. xxx

Reva said...

Now that I'm using bloglovin You were number 3 and I'm so glad I found you again!!!! I have a terrible memory and haven't visited in so long. I apologize!!!!
Great article and I love to read about other's 'innards" :)
Hugs always,

Penny-Rose said...

Wow, I need to do more "googling" and watch youtube! I remember Human League and many of the names were vaguely familiar. Thanks for the great post and info and I love the art. I came to my city to study English Literature, in fact you have inspired me to think about a similar post myself. Hope you don't mind!!

Val Sparkle said...

Oh, I loved Human League and ABC. I didn't know ABC was from Sheffield.

I ended up back in the town near where I lived as a small child. My sister moved back here as an adult, so my parents moved here when they got older, to be near her. We moved here when we left the UK because it was affordable and convenient and liberal. It was very weird being in the same town as my family after more than 30 years of living apart! It's nice, and I introduced my sister to her second husband - that in itself makes me happy we came here to live!

Lucy Nation said...

Oh, oh me, pick me! I love all these bands. I didn't realise Sheffield's contribution to music was so vast. I remember Pulp and The Longpigs from my Britpop days. Richard Hawley's music is just so beautiful and of course The Human League, they remind me of my childhood. My sister is 15 years older than me and she had the Greatest Hits on cassette. My favourite song was always 'The Lebanon' when I was a kid! Love love love Cabaret Voltaire ever since I saw a BBC4 documentary about the industrial music scene. Fabulous post Curtise. I've lived in Liverpool all my life I'm afraid. My musical city of choice would be Leeds (Sisters of Mercy) or Berlin (Sisters of Mercy) ;D xxx

Lucy Nation said...

Btw, Is it just me or does Phil Oakey in that first pic look like the guy out of Fine Young Cannibals?!!

thorne garnet said...

I know all those bands. For years I was the one in my crowd that had the subscription to The Face. That was an awesome magazine.

How did I, a former punk from California end up in a small town in the South? Well, after The Doctor finished grad school, it was either the South or Maine. A no brainer.

I can't think of any bands from here, but Doc Hoilday of the OK Corral ( Wild West history) is from here.

PinkCheetahVintage said...

Such a good post-- sorry I'm too brain dead to give a good answer. Fun hearing about you, though!!
Becky :)

Helga! said...

That's one of my fave Human League songs!!! As you know, I adore them!! AND ABC, swoony good stuff! Def Leppard! I didn't know they were Sheffield boys!! They did some of the most splendid power ballads ever.
It's clearly a city that inspires creativity, so much goodness to come out of one small town!
Such a great post, Curtise,I'm inspired, cos I guess many of us don't live where we were born, and there's some potentially amazing stories out there!
YOU ROCK,baby!

Melanie said...

Thanks for this great background. I'm glad that you have all these great memories around every corner. Mine was a circuitous route to Vancouver. Lots of music people in my past, some who went on to Greatness.

Fiona said...

Brilliant and very informative post Curtise, I had no idea that any of those bands hailed from Sheffield. My brother had Dare and played Fascist Groove Thang constantly. I still live in the county I was born in and I'm sure there are plenty of muso's from Sussex but I'm buggered if I know any!

delia hornbook said...

Im afraid im a bit ignorant when it comes to music and bands I know a few but the 80's for me is a period that doesn't do it for. Yes I had the jelly boots and shoes and the black and white checkered shirt and earrings and I should have loved that period as I was a teenager then. I came to live in Somerset at the age of 19 I moved down here to be with my boys father but that marriage ended 9 years ago and I stayed here it isn't a place I want to stay in I feel more at home and comfortable in Exeter, devon maybe when the kids are grown I can fly and move elsewhere ;-) dee xxx

Secret Squirrel said...

Wow, I had no idea so many bands came from Sheffield. Mr SS grew up in rural Bucks too (though he was born in Twickenham). I can see from all the coolness why Sheffield was a draw!

I also stayed on in my university city. After graduating I worked in Italy for a year, then studied a year in another city, then returned back to my uni city. 11 years later, I am still here. I live it. I still feel thrilled when I come in and out of the city by train. I grew up in a tiny village and could not have stayed there, no way.

Louise Mc said...

I love Heaven 17. I got to see them live a couple of years back and was so excited.

I'm Coventry born and bred, but I certainly don't want to spend my whole life here. Xx

Emalina said...

The only musical genius who hails from where I live, ie. the westcountry wilderness, is P J Harvey and I've always adored her music. But I also got a soft spot for all the music that came out of Manchester when I lived there in the 90s. Your sheffield boy Jarvis Cocker was my ultimate pin up once upon a time!

Unknown said...

I love all those 80's bands, what a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Don't feel shallow about the reasons for your choice of university. I went to Manchester University, and almost everyone there chose it because either a) They liked The Smiths or b) They wanted to be able to see ManU home games.

Amber of Butane Anvil said...

Fascinating, and I love the artworks! Together with everything else about completely hating ad resenting growing up in an isolated rural farming community and craving city life, live music / going to see bands drew me to Toronto immediately upon graduating high school. Loved it all through post-secondary and grad school, and for about a decade. It still surprises me to find myself back in my home county, though its been more than 10 years now.

señora Allnut said...

great post and fabulous pics!, I've lived in three different cities all around my country, first one was Valladolid where I went to study and where I remained for twelve years and I think it was my city of election, but I had to leave it to go to the south because of my work, and I'm now living in the north again, in a little town, Logroño!, too many movings, I miss too many friends!
besos & music love

Miss Simmonds Says said...

I'm still in the same town as I ever was, although I've tried living elsewhere, circumstances have always brought me back or kept me here. One of my all time heroes Michael Palin was from Sheffield and in a recent interview he said how fond he was of the place. Also I grew up loving Pulp so Sheffield has been an unconcious influence on me. xxxxx

angie said...

It was because of marriage that I live in Crete.I used to listen to all these bands and liked them but ofcourse I had no idea they are from Sheffield.I fell in love with my first boyfriend-a jerk-just because he was a radio producer.We all make decicions based on strange critiria

Sheila said...

Wow, so many bands and musicians! Major flashbacks of the 80s too, heh.

I love 4 blocks from the hospital I was born in - I've only moved 5 the same city. Famous musicians from here: Nelly Furtado...that's about it.

Jean at said...

I think I need to come and stay with you (or nearby) for an immersion experience!!! I'm sadly clueless and utterly fascinated by all the artists you name. Even Sheffield itself has an allure and exoticism (like you!) that I can't describe. I'm sure it seems so everyday to you, but to me? It's pure fantasy. Just the accents alone would send me into paroxysmal delight.

Thank you for my window into another world. :-) XXXOOO

Anonymous said...

Great post!! Sheffield is one of the most important musical influences of the world, if I only could realized that before I would probabily live there too! I love Pete McKee, now I'm going to google him! His illustrations are great!Jarvis Cocker is one of my favourite people in the world, have you ever met him?
Now I live in the place where I was Born and I hate it, there is no glorious people from here, nor music, I'm planning to move sooner or later, but the only reason why I'm here is mainly because I couldn't afford to live in Rome anymore.
Love xxxx

Vix said...

Jarvis and The Rev are reason enough to make me want to up sticks and move to Sheffield, I'd die of joy if I saw either of them when I finally pay you a visit.

I've lived in the West Mids all my life, it might be big, mean and ugly but it's spawned some great bands & artists...Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osborne & Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Slade, (All but one of) The Charlatans, The Wonderstuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, The Specials, The Selector, Duran Duran, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Steve Winwood, Roy Wood, The Beat, The Editors, ELO, Napalm Death, Steel Pulse, Joan Armatrading, Toyah Wilcox, UB40, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, The Twang and even Boy George ran off from "that" London to live in Walsall!
Great post - see, we don't even need photos to visit! xxxxxx

lucy joy said...

Curtise, I loved this post.
Industrial music was the first music I got into in a nerdy way. For reasons you're well aware of, my first visit to Sheffield VB was last year. I was expecting a much less polished looking city, and with KLF being a big influence (their Chillout album is a must-own, everyone I've forced to listen to it has been surprised and hooked) the "grim up north" tag stuck in my head. How very wrong.
I bought the Virgin Encyclopaedia of Dance Music from a second hand book shop a few weeks ago, it is a brilliant read! Its written with a touch of humour and I could not get over how many of my favourite artists and record labels have Sheffield links. Warp records began in Sheffield, and I'd argue that they are responsible for putting out some of the best electronic music in the world.
My parents ended up in Pontypridd because my dad and his mates were travelling around Britain in the seventies earning reasonably good money on the gas exchange, everyone was having new meters put in. They liked Cardiff and made some great new friends, and bought a really cheap house in Trefforest. Mum never really liked Wales, despite being born here, but dad loved it and is very much a Welshman with an English accent.
My parents married at 19, but didn't have kids until their late twenties, life was one big party. They are rock fans at heart, but I'm sure the radio being on throughput my childhood is what makes me such a big fan of eighties pop. ABC, Heaven 17, Human League etc.... my mother always whacked up the volume (no doubt desperate to get the duo tan on and hit Raffles nightclub instead of looking after me and my brother).
What are you up to on Saturday?

Lucy x

Kitty said...

oh you'd be a bugger wouldn't you! I had to go watch all these songs on youtube again!! Heaven 17 & Human League always were and still are massive faves, I have 4 copies of Dare on LP. Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog.xx.

Melanie said...

I recognised Richard Hawley from that first picture instantly! I really love those illustrations :) Jonathan Ross called Richard Hawley The Oldest Rockabilly in the North which always amused me! The Longpigs are one of my favourites and I saw them twice way back when and my meeting with Crispin left me rather starstruck!
I'm originally from Portsmouth, home to Manfred Mann's Paul Jones and whatshisface, 'Is She Really Goin Out With Him' man .. .. Joe Jackson, that's it! And The Cranes, Roland 'Tears for Fears' Orzabel, the band Girl plus many soft rock type bands had musicians that hailed from Pompey.
I didn't move very far when I did move, I stayed in the same county. I have never really felt the desire to leave, I quite like this part of the country.

Style Sud-Est said...

Very informative Curtise!
I know some of the bands
I love my town went to an anglo university, turned out to be the best in my field
What did you study?

Ariane xxxx

Anonymous said...

Not only are you brilliant and stunning but you have FABULOUS taste in music!!
I have always adored ABC and Human League and will admit to rocking out to Def Leppard!!

Krista Gassib said...

Great interesting post Curtise and you are right I would have been fuming if you didn't mention Def Leppard! I love the story and how music influenced where you finally settled in Sheffield and I had no idea that so much music came from there.

Having grown up in Southern CA the band that was from my home town that I remember was RATT, not all that impressive. I dated a guy for about 5 years in my 30's and he was in a metal band, I was their biggest band aid (not groupie) It was a fun time that involved constant dressing up, I loved it!

I also lived in Hollywood for a 3 years before moving to OR I think that made me sick of the scene a bit, too much bubble gum rock, here today gone tomorrow all sound the same crap.

What brought me to Oregon? The need to be anywhere but California. What's keeping me here? Everything!

Annie said...

I can't believe this! Slacker that I am, I'm only just catching up with your adventures, and this is the top post. Heaven 17! I met them on Saturday night at a club night in Birmingham. Some-one else has blogged about it, and now I've seen this, I must put links up. They also covered a couple of Human League tracks. I can't believe the coincidence :)
Anyway, it's great to catch up with you. You're looking as gorgeous as ever. If I can get a train to Chesterfield, I'd love to join for a bit of a chazza trawl.
Love Annie xxx

two squirrels said...

Curtise what a great post, I have learnt so much.
I am not to good with music.
Sending a big squirrel hug and love V

silvergirl said...

pretty cool place where you live and great story of why you are there
mine is pretty boring...husbands corporate headquarters is here, end of story. lol

Forest City Fashionista said...

I had no idea Sheffield had such a cool musical history! I do remember a number of the bands you mention, and I also adored "Lexicon of Love". Pete McKee's art is great!

I'm afraid London, Ontario doesn't have anywhere close to the musical claims to fame that Sheffield does, but we did have some punk bands like The Demics that went on to have their moments in Canadian punk rock history

Sacramento Amate said...

We used to watch Top of the pops when we lived in England. It was a real family event every Thursday.

Loo xx from Jumbles and Pompoms said...

How funny that you should write about Sheffield music. I went to a Sheffield reunion on Saturday night (in London) and met with people that used to be in lesser known bands like The Quickies & 16 Again (they used to play in Bar 1 a lot). I chose to go to Sheffield because I remember looking at Melody Maker and spotting that Sheffield had a good music scene - yay I'm shallow too! xx

freckleface said...

Nostalgia city! I remember being in the common room at school watching TOTP or going to discos in the 1980s and dancing to all that wonderful music. When I hear some of these songs, I get a totally fleeting memory of how it felt to be young and have my life ahead of me. Bittersweet.

I think of myself as a Somerset girl but came to Nottingham to set up my own business because I went to college in Loughborough, but that was too boring, there was nothing doing in the SW and London was too expensive. I was only going to stay for a couple of years. That was in 1989. xxxxx

Max said...

i came to christchurch for access to snowboarding (i thought queenstown would be too small) for a season; then out to rangiora for lurve! but i was sad to leave sheffield and the fantastic music scene in particular, i used to see bands at least a couple of times a week there, here i rarely even listen to music! i was a big cabaret voltaire fan at 14, not because they were from sheff, but because we got mtv europe and they were always on there and the rotherham library had all their cassettes! never got into the arctic monkeys, loved pulp but never listen to them anymore, but i still listen to moloko in the car from time to time. i can totally understand why your move cross country for the human league, phil oakey was such a swinggy fringed heart throb!

Max said...

ps erm not really a music meca nz, but i've always had a soft spot for the brunnettes x

CityScape Skybaby said...

I loved this post Curtise, set my memory off thinking of loads of stuff. Same as you and every other 80's teenager, Dare was my favourite album for ages, me and my younger brother went halfers on it and played it endlessly. Pulp were my favourite Britpop band and now my daughter loves them and her favourite band is the Arctic Monkeys, so we're big fans of Sheffield music in this house.
I think I've only been to Sheffield once properly. Pat bought me a train ticket for my birthday to go and see the Vivienne Westwood exhibition that was on a few years back. I kept my eyes skinned for Jarvis Cocker the whole time I was there but no luck.
I grew up near Liverpool but started moving around working in different hotels and holiday camps around Britain in my early twenties. When I was twenty five I met Pat at Butlins in Ayr, I was a waitress and he worked up in the staff canteen, though he ended up being a waiter. Since then we've lived in various places around Scotland, but I miss home and I miss living next to the sea, so I'm looking out for a chance to move again one day. xx

Rosemary the Shopper said...

How did I end up living where I live? I KNEW without a doubt, I wanted to live in England from the first time I came as a tourist. How did I get lucky enough to live in Shrewsbury? (The loveliest town in England). Well, that was luck, and the fact that it was about 60 miles from Gorgeous Husband's parents, so we could visit them without living in their pockets, so to speak. The fact that the town is so beautiful and friendly is an unexpected bonus.

Love from
Rosemary of

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

Ha - see, you DON'T need a camera to write a great post! Very interesting read, I knew some of Sheffield's more famous sons but not all of them.

I ended up in Bristol when I did English Lit, which was in the heydey of its own music scene at the time - Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky and other triphop luminaries. Plus the emergence of Drum n Bass I suppose, and a massive club culture. I loved it as a city, it seemed so so so many times cooler than Swansea, and was far enough away from home that I loved the relative anonymity. It was a friendly city though, and very walkable. I made some interesting fashion choices in that city - mainly clubware inspired!


Lynne DeVenny said...

I loved this trip through the 80s and enjoyed playing the video at my desk.

If we're talking English bands and an American teenage girl in the early 80s, I would have picked where ever Simpy Red called home.

MakiMaki Vintage said...

Thanks for the music history lesson! I've always loved Pulp!

xo MakiMaki

MakiMaki Vintage

Tamera Beardsley said...

Such a comprehensive post... and I am reminded once again why I have such awe for all things UK ... and you my dear! So happy to have learned more of your story!

Pam in Texas said...

Missing your posts Curtise, hoping that you will post again soon.
Stay well and warm.
Pam in Texas.xx

Sara said...

I so enjoyed this post. :D So many greats hail from your neck of the woods! And The Human League are awesome!

I remember when I first moved to New York City..I happened to walk through the same neighborhood as a few notable actors that I admired; i thought of how neat it would be to just happen to bump into them. And they would want to be my friend immediately, of course. Haha I think that being surrounded by a city of people I truly admired did inspire me to live there.

Sheffield had so much mid 60's goodness for sure; One of my fav eras for music. :) I hope I get to see it someday! Hope you are well. XO

Diane said...

What a top post - and featuring all I love about the city too. As you know we love The EPB and Pete McKee's art. Next time the Human League do the City Hall, i'll just get you a ticket - it was brilliant. My fave advert at the mo is the one where Joe Cocker sings "You can leave your hat on" . I don't think Sheffield is a pretty city. Its gritty and northern and its beauty is far deeper than skin deep. It is an amazing place and we are so glad to have you Curtise. You fit in so well. xxxxxxxx

A Handmade Lifestyle said...

Dare - the best album EVER!!!

Mrs. D said...

This is such a cool post!
To answer your question, I've always been a bit of an anglophile, ever since I was a wee kid. Again because of music - all the goth and punk music on the telly fascinated me ever since I laid eyes on it - the cure, siouxsie and the banshees etc. So I always had a bit of a soft spot for this island.
I've made many plans here and there but ended up never happening for a few years - life gets in the way.
However, 5 years ago I started working for a British company in Lisbon and there was an opening for a job I was interested in doing and it had gotten to the point that enough was enough and it was time to move on... so I landed the job and got to lovely (eurgh) Grantham. I've been here for 2 and a half years now but it's getting to the point that I'm getting itchy feet and I'm preparing to move somewhere else (London maybe). I don't know of any musical heroes from here but the most notable local personalities are Sir Isaac Newton and Maggie Thatcher.

Much love xx